A seriously beefed up marketing campaign leading up to the Third Annual Homer Soda Festival paid dividends for festival organizers this past weekend. Having attended the festival the last two years, I knew as soon as I drove into Homer on Saturday afternoon that the festival was more crowded than it had been in the past. The weather was as fickle and unpredictable as a tweenager, but that didn’t seem to deter potential attendees.

I’m not sure if event organizers anticipated such large numbers. The parking situation was a nightmare. When I arrived shortly after noon, there were virtually no spots available on the streets or in the handful of business parking lots. I saw one Event Parking sign, but it led nowhere. No parking signs were strategically placed further complicating the situation. There weren't any festival volunteers or local police to help with parking, either. I parked in someone’s yard and hoped that my car wouldn’t be towed. Parking needs to be reconsidered for next year — for the sake of the attendees, residents, and locals’ yards.

With the addition of several new attractions, the previously centralized layout was expanded some this year. There was a car show on the north side of Main Street, which allowed for a few vendor booths to be in and around that area, further extending the festival footprint. Ticket tents were moved to the outskirts of the footprint (and one in the middle of the festival) and since there was more than one place to get tickets, it made getting tickets much easier. Tickets were twenty-five cents each and used for soda samples only. VIP passes and wristbands were available for $20; these options got you a souvenir gift bag, shot glass, and unlimited tastes. Food and drink were available with cash.

map from Homer Soda Festival website

There were a ton of people at the event. 

It was packed. 

Lines for soda samples were extensive at just about every booth, so when I finally made it to the front of the line, I sampled six varieties of Americana sodas. Delicious — especially that Honey Cream soda.

The lines for food were long, too. Food options were typical outdoor-fair foods, deep fried Oreos and all. Local favorites Dragon Fire Pizza, Chester’s BBQ, Burrito King, and The Pop Stop were present. Flying Machine Coffee had a booth and was selling coffee-infused Italian sodas.

The best thing to eat, though, was the Crowridge Farm Ice Cream. I first had this ice cream at last year’s event, and have been patiently waiting for 365 days to eat it again. On this occasion I had a scoop of the superman — a brightly colored, mildly flavored (a little almond, a little vanilla?) ice cream intended to appeal to children — and a scoop of the salted caramel, which was perfect. Crowridge Ice Cream is, by far, the best ice cream I’ve had in the Midwest. No contest.

There were a few new activities for this year, mostly aimed at the kids: pony rides, kids bouncy houses, experiments with The Orpheum Children’s Science Museum, bubbles, and outdoor mobile laser tag, which looked completely disturbing.

All in all, it was a super busy day for organizers, vendors, and festival attendees. The weather held until the midafternoon. I left just before the rains rolled in, but I’m guessing most people were so full of tasty food and sugary soda that they didn’t mind. Especially Hugo, the seven-week old basset hound puppy.

Check out the rest of the photos in the gallery below.

For more information about the Homer Soda Festival, check out the event’s website.

 All photos by Jessica Hammie.